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Pump action seems to be a faster way to cycle a weapon compared to bolt action and it's a rather simple action, unlike straight-pull bolt which are more prone to malfunction. It almost seems like a direct upgrade to me.

Since we have magazine-fed pump action shotguns nowadays, It's probably possible to do the same with rifles. Even if we only had tubular magazines, the Lebel rifle actually had a tubular magazine with spitzer (pointy) bullets that was designed to prevent cartridges from firing the one in front of it in the magazine.

I know that nowadays this would be a novelty because of the availability of semi-auto rifles but why couldn't it replace bolt-action rifles?

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  • $\begingroup$ The loading action of the bolt action is less likely to cause any damage to the round so improving accuracy... $\endgroup$
    – Solar Mike
    Jul 12, 2018 at 14:21
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    $\begingroup$ Think about the different loading actions... $\endgroup$
    – Solar Mike
    Jul 12, 2018 at 14:37
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    $\begingroup$ @Hawker65 As soon as you add semi-automatic and full-automatic weapons to the accuracy discussion, you also need to take the difference between open-bolt and closed-bolt action into consideration. Calling semi-auto inherently less accurate for the action moving holds only for open-bolt weapons $\endgroup$ Jul 13, 2018 at 10:20
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    $\begingroup$ Well, most sniper rifles (DMRs excluded) are bolt action to avoid that loss of accuracy. Open bolt rifles is also rare since open bolts are for more fire rate but less accuracy. $\endgroup$
    – Hawker65
    Jul 13, 2018 at 13:31
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    $\begingroup$ Well, there are some objective pros and cons to these actions, and that's what I'm looking for. Bonus points if I get historical reasons like in @BillDOe's answer $\endgroup$
    – Hawker65
    Jul 18, 2018 at 21:07

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I found this "answer" on Quora:

Pump rifles are not popular because a pump action excels at quick shots rather than precise ones. Moving the forend to reload throws off the shooting position. This is fine for shotguns, but kind of defeats the point of a rifle. For people who might need a quick follow-up shot, autoloading (semi-automatic) rifles fit the bill a lot better, because the shooter does not need to move between shots. Also, by the time pump rifle designs became practical, autoloaders cost similar to them, so the only benefit they might have had was gone.


I'd have to say that the main reason why pump action rifles just aren't that popular is that there really isn't a niche market for them. Some manufactures do make them1, but as far as I can tell from articles I've seen in various publications, they're mostly available in small calibers. It's not so much a matter of technology, but of marketing.

And there might be some issues with the locking mechanism. With any single-shot rifle over, say, 30-30, there has to be a reliable bolt-locking mechanism to keep the breech closed until the projectile exits the muzzle and the muzzle blast dissipates. The strength needed to operate the pump on such a rifle would even further cause the shooter to completely lose their original sight picture further obviating the advantage of a pump action mechanism.

In short, there just isn't a market for them.

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1. https://www.remington.com/rifles/pump-action

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  • $\begingroup$ I heard that they are mostly used in calibers like .22 LR to avoid the spitzer-center-fired issue. Maybe the Lebel solution is too impractical for manufacturing, which I would understand. $\endgroup$
    – Hawker65
    Jul 15, 2018 at 19:02
  • $\begingroup$ Nowadays, there are plastic-tipped bullets for more effective calibers which solve the center-fire bullet-contact-primer problem, but they are still spendy. $\endgroup$
    – K7AAY
    Dec 28, 2018 at 19:08
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When you hold the long arm (rifle or shotgun), there are three places where the gun is held:

  1. The forearm is held with your off hand,
  2. near the action or on a pistol grip with your strong hand,
  3. and the butt of the stock up against your shoulder, which is the fulcrum.

When you work a pump action on a long arm, Pump action rifle, showing fulcrum and where force applied by working action you are introducing much more deviation from the original point of aim, at multiple points along the path of the pump foreend; even though it seems that a fore-and-aft action would result in minimal deviation minimal, the force is exerted out, farther from the fulcrum of stock-butt-on-shoulder, at multiple positions along the path, so any deviation is magnified by that distance. Also, the force of working the action is applied with your off-hand, presumably weaker, and since the off-hand typically is less dexterous (no pun intended), it will take longer for the sight picture to settle down and give you another good alignment to the target.

Lever action rifle, showing fulcrum and where force applied by working action When you work a lever action or bolt action, the force which disturbs your aim is much closer to the fulcrum, so any deviation caused by working the action is much less, so reacquiring the sight picture is much quicker. You're also using your strong hand, which gives you greater dexterity and therefore quicker recovery.

Rifle photographs courtesy Hmaag's Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, from Wikimedia.

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  • $\begingroup$ Good point. However, pump action being a simple action, you get an increased rate of fire. This increase in rate of fire would compensate the time you potentially lost reacquiring the target. In addition, this deviation could probably be greatly reduced with training. Anyway, I did not think about this factor which is indeed more crucial for manual action rifles because of the greater need of accuracy compared to shotguns. $\endgroup$
    – Hawker65
    Dec 28, 2018 at 18:25
  • $\begingroup$ Then, there's the Swiss K31 thetruthaboutguns.com/2013/05/daniel-zimmerman/… fieldandstream.com/swiss-k31 and the Mannlicher M1893 en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swiss_Mannlicher_M1893_Carbine with straight-pull bolt actions which is also a simple action, which is why I favor those bolt-action rifles. $\endgroup$
    – K7AAY
    Dec 28, 2018 at 19:13
  • $\begingroup$ True, but you still need to take a hand off your weapon to operate the action, reducing your rate of fire, and straight-pull bolts tend to be less reliable than classic bolt-actions. $\endgroup$
    – Hawker65
    Dec 31, 2018 at 14:39
  • $\begingroup$ The lack of development of the straight-through action is perplexing. The K31 has been described as very reliable, as well as much faster than turning bolts. $\endgroup$
    – K7AAY
    Dec 31, 2018 at 17:25
  • $\begingroup$ I have heard that the Ross Rifle was not adopted as a standard rifle because it was more susceptible to mud and general trench conditions than a standard bolt-action. $\endgroup$
    – Hawker65
    Jan 25, 2019 at 15:08
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Many good points in this thread as to why there aren't many pump action rifles about. But I can come up with two reasons why there should be more pump action rifles.....and why I believe they would be commercially successful:

  1. Semi automatic, centre fire rifles are greatly restricted by legislation in many parts of the world (including my country, Australia). Pump action rifles would be/are VERY attractive to shooters in those nations where semi automatic rifles are just about impossible to get a hold of.

  2. Pump action rifles are a heck of a lot of fun to shoot. I know....I own an old FN Browning Trombone 22lr. And, let's face it, a huge part of the modern gun market is for "fun" plinkster guns, used to plink at targets on the weekend.

I'd suggest that a traditionally styled, pump action rifle in larger pistol calibers (45 colt, 357 magnum, 44 magnum) would be huge commercial success.

I'd buy one!

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This is purely speculation on my part, but I think rifles (both military and hunting kinds) are designed partly to be fired from a prone position, and in general from positions where the shooter's elbow is resting on something. It's difficult to work a pump action in those positions, but easier to work a bolt.

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According to List of most-produced firearms, Remington Model 760/7600, which is a pump-action, centerfire rifle with a detachable box magazine, since 1952 has been produced as many as SVT-40 and MP 40.

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